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KCathy
02-04-2007, 05:21 AM
One perfectly sensible piece of advice that I often find in writing books is to write in the genre that you most enjoy reading. "Take stock of your bookshelf and go from there." So I pounded out 90,000 words of a fun story in the genre I like best and tried to revise it a couple of times. I disliked writing it and detested revision.

Then I did some non-fiction freelancing for a while, mostly to see if I could write well enough to get paid. I sold a handful of articles. I enjoyed everything about it except the endless search for ideas and pitching to different editors. "If only I could write about just one idea for one editor for several months in a row," I thought. Then, "Oh, wait, that's writing non-fiction books, which I don't like to read and therefore shouldn't write."

The thing is, the fiction I enjoy appeals to the part of me that's in play when I'm relaxing. It requires little effort on my part, has a plot but no specific or delineated structure, and is continuously entertaining. When I'm relaxing, I don't want to read non-fiction because it makes me think, has structure, and occasionally bores me for several pages at a time. I don't read (or go to the movies) to think. I read to relax.

When I'm working, however, fiction embodies everything I can't tolerate. I need structure, a clear idea where I'm going, specific steps, and subjects that make me think in straight lines. Writing fiction when I'm in that mode feels too amorphous and intuitive; I feel like I'm trying to sculpt Jell-O. I managed to do it by giving myself structure and deadlines, but I didn't enjoy it. Writing non-fiction, on the other hand, gives me the industrious high of weilding a table saw and measuring tape while building a bookshelf.

Also, I spend a lot of time discussing parenting and childbirth issues at an online natural parenting community where I'm an admin. I love writing about those themes, and that love is perfectly suited to my book idea about choosing a birth method using the birth stories of other women.

I was sometimes worried or frustrated by a specific problem within my book proposal, but, overall, I had a blast writing it. I often spent several hours wrestling through a sample chapter without noticing how much time had gone by until my three-year-old started begging for a sandwich. "It's dinnertime? I just gave you lunch!" I even enjoyed the worst parts of revision: those moments when a critic tells you something has to change, you agree, and you realize that changing it will mean hours of tedious work and verbal gymnastics that leave your brain in knots. Even that part was FUN.

My question (finally) is: do you think I can have any success writing in a genre I dislike reading? Will my lack of familiarity with non-fiction hamstring my ability to write it?

ChumleyK
02-04-2007, 05:32 AM
I think that your passion will show through in your writing and improve the quality of your non-fiction. I think the reason people say to write genres that you like reading is because your love and knowledge of that genre will show through in your writing.

But then, I'm not an expert.

veinglory
02-04-2007, 05:34 AM
It's good advice if it works for you. I don't follow it myself. The genre I most enjoy writing is one I do occassionally read, but not the genre I most enjoy reading or read most often.

stormie
02-04-2007, 05:36 AM
Okay, as I see it, you like writing non-fiction. Writing fiction bores you to tears. You detested it. It probably showed in your writing, too. Don't worry about what you enjoy reading, it's what you enjoy writing.

It's not always true that we should write what we enjoy reading. I enjoy reading hard-boiled mysteries, but couldn't--wouldn't--write them. At least not at this time. Maybe someday.

Do what feels right for you.

benbradley
02-04-2007, 05:44 AM
One perfectly sensible piece of advice that I often find in writing books is to write in the genre that you most enjoy reading. "Take stock of your bookshelf and go from there." So I pounded out 90,000 words of a fun story in the genre I like best and tried to revise it a couple of times. I disliked writing it and detested revision.

Then I did some non-fiction freelancing for a while, mostly to see if I could write well enough to get paid. I sold a handful of articles. I enjoyed everything about it except the endless search for ideas and pitching to different editors. "If only I could write about just one idea for one editor for several months in a row," I thought. Then, "Oh, wait, that's writing non-fiction books, which I don't like to read and therefore shouldn't write."

But non-fiction isn't a "genre" - it's more of a CATEGORY. Or something.


My question (finally) is: do you think I can have any success writing in a genre I dislike reading? Will my lack of familiarity with non-fiction hamstring my ability to write it?

I have to ask, how did you learn about all the childbirth methods? How did you learn other things in previous years, and especially in school? My argument here is you must have learned SOMETHING from non-fiction books, so you probably have some familiarity with them, more than you claim to have.

But go ahead and write this non-fiction stuff. It sounds like writing fiction was such a pain for you, and this childbirth book has come out so well for you (except I recall another thread where it's twice as big as a book "should be"), that it's a no-brainer that you should write non-fiction.

ChaosTitan
02-04-2007, 08:10 AM
It's good advice if it works for you. I don't follow it myself. The genre I most enjoy writing is one I do occassionally read, but not the genre I most enjoy reading or read most often.

You read every word you write, so in a sense, you are reading the genre as much as you write it. Perhaps that is why some writers read a lot outside of their preferred writing genre; they have had their fill of it once they are finished writing for the day.

Personally, I think I follow the "read what you write" school of thought. Almost everything I've read in the last year has had some sort of paranormal phenomenon (although the specific genre has varied, from thriller to romance to horror).

KCathy
02-04-2007, 08:16 AM
I have to ask, how did you learn about all the childbirth methods? How did you learn other things in previous years, and especially in school? My argument here is you must have learned SOMETHING from non-fiction books, so you probably have some familiarity with them, more than you claim to have.

That's a good point. I have read non-fiction for specific purposes, of course. I just meant that I don't read it for enjoyment, so I wouldn't be as familiar with it as I would fiction, since I read 1-5 novels every week.


except I recall another thread where it's twice as big as a book "should be"

Yes, that was me. Based on what I originally wanted to include and the lengths of my sample chapters, I was predicting a longer-than-usual book and asking for advice about how to broach the subject with agents/editors. What I heard instead was, "Why don't you cut the thing instead, you goober?" Except everyone was kind enough not to call me a goober, lol. I've decided to stop being so bull-headed and do the amputations necessary to make it fit the typical book framework. Because I sent out three proposals and three queries before joining AW and asking that, though, for now I will just wait to see if an agent is interested enough to contact me. If one does, I'll explain that I understand now that what I proposed was long and that I'm willing to make X,Y,Z changes to remedy the situation. If one doesn't, I'll change the proposal before sending it out to the next round of possibilities.

P.S. So far one of the agents I queried has asked for the full proposal and one agent has sent a form rejection.

Sean D. Schaffer
02-04-2007, 11:01 AM
I don't think there's any particular law that says you have to write what you read. I think what matters is: do you enjoy writing your work in the genre you're in?

TsukiRyoko
02-04-2007, 05:28 PM
I believe that the "Write what you read" aspect is applied best to fiction. I know many non-fiction writers (freelance or no) who simply cannot write fiction well and when they do, they detest writing it.

On the flip-side, most of the fiction writers I know tend to stick to their genre (I'm one of them) and scarcely roam outside of it, unless it's for pure enjoyment or challenging themselves.

johnzakour
02-04-2007, 07:16 PM
Once I published my first novel I stopped reading inside my genre. I'll still on occasion browse a Raymond Chandler short story, but that's as close as I get.

Jamesaritchie
02-04-2007, 07:35 PM
First, I think most good writers enjoy reading darned near anything and everything.

I also think fiction writers are at their best when they write the same kind of thing they love to read.

But fiction and nonfiction are not the same critter. They usually aren't even the same species, and the same rules do not apply.

In the end, however, it comes down to writing whatever it is you're good at writing. If you can write a great novel without reading in the genre, more power to you.

veinglory
02-04-2007, 09:29 PM
You read every word you write, so in a sense, you are reading the genre as much as you write it. Perhaps that is why some writers read a lot outside of their preferred writing genre; they have had their fill of it once they are finished writing for the day.

Personally, I think I follow the "read what you write" school of thought. Almost everything I've read in the last year has had some sort of paranormal phenomenon (although the specific genre has varied, from thriller to romance to horror).

True, and writing does fill a story-reading need in me. but I aslo read easily ten times what I write and mostly in a different genre. My writing is guided as much by the opportunities available as the motivation from within.

Toothpaste
02-04-2007, 09:38 PM
I think what James says is true, most writers/readers like many different genres. But you don't have to write them all. You can love many different genres and only write in one. I love lots of different kinds of books, but especially mysteries. I tried for years to write one. I suck at writing mysteries. BUT I also love children's lit, and tried to write one. And THAT I could do.


Here's a question for you Kathy, have you tried writing fiction with an outline? You say it is unstructured, but it can easily be completely formed in your head before you write it. Not saying that you HAVE to write fiction, just saying there may be other ways to write it than the first method you chose.


Also you said, "I disliked writing it and detested revision." You do know that even in non-fiction you have to revise right? I'm sure you do, that you were just saying you didn't like revising fiction - am I reading that correctly? Sorry sometimes I so read things in the wrong way!

stormie
02-04-2007, 11:50 PM
Toothpaste is right (Oh geez, I almost wrote "write.") Since you, Kcathy, seem to be structured in your writing, maybe writing an outline first before you attempt to write fiction would help. That is, if you really feel you want to--or need to--write fiction.

Dave.C.Robinson
02-05-2007, 12:52 AM
Fiction and non-fiction are very different beasts. In non-fiction it's more important to know the subject than to read the 'genre.' For fiction, I think it should be reversed; not write what you read but read what you write. Again it comes back to knowing what you're writing about. If you're not familiar with a genre you won't know the unstated assumptions.

It's fine to read things you don't write, but not such a good idea to write something you've never read and don't have a feeling or liking for.

KCathy
02-05-2007, 01:24 AM
You do know that even in non-fiction you have to revise right? I'm sure you do, that you were just saying you didn't like revising fiction.

Yep. Revising still isn't my favorite part of writing non-fic (especially the tenth or fifteenth revision, when I look around and notice that my head has rotated 180 degrees while trying to keep track of my spinning brain), but I actually enjoyed it a little bit, too. It's kind of like the old adage about how sub-par sex is still pretty darn good.


have you tried writing fiction with an outline? You say it is unstructured, but it can easily be completely formed in your head before you write it.

maybe writing an outline first before you attempt to write fiction would help.

You know, my first attempts at writing were based on outlines, but those were the half-hearted early dabbling attempts from my teens/early twenties. It was my serious attempt (or whatever you call it when you finish and don't like it enough to do anything with it) that was less structured. I just made myself write 10 pages a day in Word until I finished a first draft. If I ever feel compelled again to write fiction, I'll definitely take your advice and give myself a roadmap to follow.

Big thanks to all of you for making me feel less like I'm trying to get away with breaking the rules out of sheer ego and more like I'm doing what fits best!

Shadow_Ferret
02-05-2007, 06:41 PM
As has been stated above by many more experienced and intelligent than I, the whole "write in the genre you like reading" applies primarily to fiction.

Writing nonfiction is a whole separate arena. I don't think you need to read many, if even any, non-fiction books to write non-fiction. You just need to understand the subject thoroughly enough to get your points across and you need to know how to structure a non-fiction book. But if you've already written essays in high school or college, writing a non-fiction book isn't much of a leap from there.